WORKS: Symphony No. 4 (The Gardens); Horn Concerto; Concerto for Bass Trombone, Strings, Timpani & Cymbals
PERFORMER: David Jolley (horn), Charles Vernon (bass trombone), Mark Johnson (timpani), Alison Shaw (cymbals); Michigan State University Choral Ensembles, Children’s Choir & SO/Leon Gregorian
CATALOGUE NO: 3-7487-2
Anyone who enjoyed Koch’s recording of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Symphony No. 3 (1992) from James Sedares and the Louisville Orchestra will certainly not be disappointed by its equally imposing successor. Zwilich’s Symphony No. 4, The Gardens, commissioned by former Michigan State University alumni Jack and Dottie Withrow, was inspired by the university’s campus and gardens. Cast in four substantial movements (‘Introduction: Litany of Endangered Plants’, ‘Meditation on Living Fossils’, ‘A Pastoral Journey’ and ‘The Children’s Promise’) and lasting some 27 minutes, this readily accessible work is played (appropriately) by the very capable Michigan State University Symphony Orchestra and choruses under Leon Gregorian.
Dedicatee of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s taxing 1993 Concerto for Horn and String Orchestra David Jolley is the accomplished soloist on this new recording. The Bass Trombone Concerto, however, was terra incognita, and although I’d heard Christian Lindberg’s BIS account of Zwilich’s Concerto for Tenor Trombone, it provided tantalisingly few clues about its sibling, written in 1989 for Charles Vernon, bass trombonist of the Chicago Symphony. Vernon and the excellent Michigan State University orchestra give a lithe and powerful performance, completing one of the best CDs of recent orchestral music I’ve encountered for some time. Try it! Michael Jameson